Thursday, 31 October 2013

Untimely Floral Lie

Nothing this time, am working on some bigger things. Will try to make amends soon. In the meantime, please enjoy these photographs of plants I took some months ago.

Tom | Born Frowning

Saturday, 31 August 2013


Treatment for Short Film

SISTER walks away from village train station. She appears to have been waiting a short time. She walks slowly carrying a weekend bag towards the seafront. She smells and listens to the nearing sea and listens to the church bell strike six. Beyond the church is the ocean. She spends a moment watching it before carrying on walking in little hurry, drinking it all in. She looks at the shop front of a closed iced cream parlour, ‘Harper’s Iced Creams’ and the remaining swooping gulls and allows herself a smile.
SISTER carries on walking down a street as dusk rapidly sets in. A figure stands in the growing darkness somewhere in the distance on the pavement in front of her. SISTER squints to try and see him. He doesn’t move. She stops in front of him and they spend a long beat looking at each other. They hug, somewhat awkwardly. SISTER runs her thumb over the collar of BROTHER’S winter coat. He takes her bag and they walk off together.

In BROTHER’S kitchen- rustic, oak, cast iron, etc, he serves her a lamb stew and cuts her a slice of bread. SISTER smiles softly and says “thanks”. He takes the dishes when she is done.

SISTER wakes up after a restful sleep, sun shining through the window on to her face. She gets out of bed and stretches. In slight pain, she rubs a scar on her left leg. She spends a moment looking at it, sat upright on the bed, her left leg stretched out, her right leg curled round beside her.
She sits in the same position on the pavement in a different time and place. A knife sticks out of her left leg, blue lights illuminating her face.

SISTER has showered and stands in her underwear, looking at herself in her mirror. She lightly prods her belly looking dejected.
She stands in the same position in a different time and place wearing a hospital gown, tenderly holding her stomach, shocked tears streaming.

Two fried duck eggs with vivid yellow yolks. Brown toast. Fried cherry tomatoes. In BROTHER’S kitchen, a picture of a cooked breakfast is served.

On a beach, beneath a rockface, SISTER stands, limbering up. Then she closes her eyes for a moment. BROTHER frames the shot on tripod mounted camera. When they are both ready, he starts filming and she begins to dance. Modern, fluid and balletic.

They are sat around his dinner table, finishing an Indian meal. Take away cartons are splayed over the table. BORTHER and SISTER look full, tired and happy.
BROTHER:            Told you it was good
SISTER nods in agreement.
BROTHER:            Place has changed. Bernie’s is a surf shop now.
SISTER:                                 I saw! Double Disc?
BROTHER:            Closed.
SISTER:                                 Aw!

It is a few hours later. The table is cleared. They drink herbal tea where spirits or wine would usually be drunk. Snatches of conversation. SISTER offering to pay to refusal, bits of their life, both personal and superfluous.

BROTHER drives her to the station. They get out of the car and hug. BROTHER insists on helping her on to the train. They both smile as he waits. She waves for him to go but he stays, smiling.

The End

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Well Then

We all sighed as we were kicked off the bus and onto the busy back town high street. The music from the Turkish Food Centre we stood in front of danced with the heat outside. The tar in the road glistened and the boiling ground broke up the air as we gazed over the curve in the road, waiting for the next 75.
“What’s wrong with the bus?”
“I’m told. It is not me”
“But what’s actually wrong with it?”
“I was running late”
“Now we’re all running late”
“I was told. They tell me. I am just robot”
The bus driver timidly attempted to placate the ginger woman, both too fat and too skinny. He wore a white short-sleeved shirt. The same type as the Mormons who try and ply their shite to hundreds of god fearing Africans and West Indians in the town centre just down the road, maintaining a plastic American smile at the end of a day of rejection. He was Chinese or Korean. I didn’t stop to ask his life story. You don’t see many of them driving buses. East Asians or quiet, timid men. He was far too quick with an apology. He wouldn’t last. I wanted to stop and get a cold drink. Enjoy the moment of pause that had been forced on me, but I couldn’t risk missing another bus. If I stopped I would stop. I had to keep going.


I walk into the reception. It is hot and cool. The polish metal head at the desk stares into the middle distance, one ipod headphone stuck in his ear. I try and breathe. It’s hot and cool. 
Nothing works in this country.
“Room 48b”
Nothing works in this country.

“We haven’t got much left, love. You’re a bit late. Maybe some chicken goo-jons”
It’s ok, I only want a beer. Do you have beer?
“We wouldn’t be much of a pub if we didn’t have beer!”
They aren’t much of a pub. But they’re right here, where I need them. I watch the bubbles float through the sunlight. I can’t really talk. Not that there is anyone else to talk to. Hospital pub. I’m not the first person here to need a drink.

The Ladywell Unit Ha Ha this lady aint well Ha Ha Room 48b there it is go on in but here I am on the first floor in the café staring at the factory made muffins.
“Can I help you, love?”
Men shuffle slowly. How can they wear tracksuit bottoms on a hot day like this? It’s so dark in here.
“You ok love?”
Yes I’m visiting my sister I’m not one of them I’m just visiting my sister she’s in Room 48b she hasn’t been well she hasn’t been. She was just laughing when I found her. Just laughing and laughing and singing the theme tune to a kid’s TV show over and over and over again and I didn’t. Know what to do I. She hadn’t been happy. She hadn’t been happy that’s why she went away camping. With her friends. After the ambulance took her I went through her phone and called them all up. Her friends. I was angry and asked them what drugs they had taken and they said none and they sounded like they were telling the truth but I’m not sure I believe them because how else can this have happened how she used to be normal how else could this have happened

They all cheer, their glasses meeting in the middle of the table. The young, beaming doctors. A tired looking nurse sits behind them, enjoying the sun and the moment.

“Write your name here” he says, deafened in one ear by the headphone. The one hanging loose spits staccato high-end as it swings wildly. I write my name on the tag without looking up at him and peel it off the paper, not needing the muted directions given through the thin glass.

I pull the name tag off my jumper, looking at the fibres caught on the back. I let them shimmer in the breeze before I fold it over, pretending that I’m not disgusted with myself. My hands shake and I let the nametag soak the beer that falls. My name runs and I hate myself.

It smells in here. Of must and bleach and plastic sheets. Of confusion and terror and other worlds. It stinks of spastics, as we used to say every year about the coaches the school would hire for sports day. Danny Conners used to say it loudest. Say everything loudest. People used to say things about her. Behind my back, but I knew. Danny Conners said it too. Loud and to my face. I’d never broken anyone’s nose before. Or since. I did it for her. I said I did it for her. But really it was for me. Because if I could break a nose for her, then why can’t I open a door? I can see her through the window, reading. But it may as well be a wall. My hand goes out and I feel faint and I can’t I can’t I can’t. I need a beer, I say, and I promise myself, I promise her I’ll be right back. 


The bus traveled home without incident. The chatter of people, the chatter of the road became a blanket I tried to hide myself in. The sun couldn’t set fast enough. 

Friday, 31 May 2013

May Apologies and Songbirds

I have nothing this month. A close shave with pneumonia, a spell in hospital and a tussle with fate have put paid to that.

I am currently working on pieces from the past two months that should be up in the next couple-two-tree days (with any luck) so there should be something new soon.

I can hear wood pigeons from where I am staying. Their call has remained the same throughout my life, throughout the world. If you listen for long enough you can hear the harmonics above the call.

Apologies to anyone concerned.

Tom | BF

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The Austere Man


Listen carefully. This is the most important thing you will ever hear.

One inch by three. That’s how big it was. The first thing I noticed about the void was its size. This may strike you as odd, but I was never panicked by it, not even early on. It didn’t start as a small hole that grew. I didn’t wake up to find it had formed in the night. I was eating dinner and watching a TV programme. I think it was property show. I find them tedious and comforting. The pains of other people’s aspirations. I looked down, away from the screen and noticed it. Just there on my left arm. I suppose it’s a hole, but it’s not in any kind of medical sense. It’s not a gash or deep wound. I can’t peer into the meat and sinew. I can’t look at the bone and it doesn’t hurt or bleed. It’s just a void. Just a big patch of nothing. One inch by three.

That was a few weeks ago. My first thought was to go to my GP clinic, but I’m not ill. It doesn’t hurt and I find (found?) the clinical smell and the waiting so depressing. The tired look in the doctors eyes. I am so loathe to take the time off work for something that doesn’t exist, that they’ll have no way of explaining. But the more I stared at it, the more I started to see something in the dark, in the void. Something that I couldn’t really understand. Moving, shifting in a way I couldn’t really comprehend. Like I was just looking at something complex from an angle that made it seem simple. So I went against my better judgement and saw a doctor. He did little but ask me a series of questions relating to diet and stress levels and then laugh at the novelty. He took a tongue depressor and poked it into the void. It seemed to disappear as soon as it entered, yet was intact when he pulled it back out. I asked him what I could do about it. He asked me if it hurt, if I could still use my arm. I answered “no” and “yes” respectively.
“Then what do you want to do about it?” he replied.

I was half expecting to be abducted by a shadowy secret governmental division, to be locked away and experimented on. In truth I was little more than a dinner party anecdote.

Button down shirts have long been the saviour of people working office jobs, wanting to disguise or keep separate an aspect of their lives, from functional heroin addicts to the heavily tattooed. I now counted myself among their rank. The practical nature of clothes in this regard was not an idea I had considered up until this point, but would be something I would learn to rely upon in the days and weeks that followed.

Picking the hardened skin around the balls of my feet was habit I am not too pleased to admit to or let people see, at least when I still could, but has been a basic pleasure since a young age. I am glad to say I had graduated to a pumice stone for the most part, but would often indulge this admittedly disgusting habit after returning from work. As I picked at the skin around the base of the little toe on my left foot, a long strand of skin came away. As I pulled and pulled it ran around the little toe like an orange peel, revealing raw, bleeding skin and muscle. An article I had read some months before had talked about how humans are still evolving. One example they cited was the loss of our small toes, how they were effectively useless now, given how few people walk barefoot. I really don’t remember thinking much as it happened. I certainly don’t recall any pain, or even that much blood. My little toe seemed to come off neatly in my hand. I didn’t really know what to do with it. I knew I didn’t want it back but I couldn’t quite bring myself to throw it away. It wasn’t as if it was hair or toenails and would regrow. I placed it in a ramekin and covered it over with cling film as if it were last night’s dinner. Then I remember thinking how uneven my feet looked. The other came off just as easily, with even less bleeding.

The next day, the remaining bits of flesh had begun to turn into blackened ribbons, like a plaster that had been left on too long. Like many men my age, I ran and swam to keep fit. I thought about my weight and appearance probably too often. As I stared down at the tatters of hardened skin, I began to think about home improvements. About streamlining and minimalism. About efficiency. Why should buildings have something that I wanted for myself? Why should remodelling stop at fitness or gender reassignment or turning yourself into a fucking catman. Why should I wait on the slow pace of evolution for improvements? I wanted them now. I deserved them now. I sat near-naked and stared into the void, the hole that was not a hole and pulled at the skin on my legs. It came off like paper that scratched in my gut. I could imagine that a few days before this would make me gag or cry but now I barely even saw the blood. I wound it round and round until the skin up to my thighs was gone.

Next, I thought about my hair. The money I spent on haircuts and products. The time and energy on worry about the inevitability of greying and hair loss. I had begun to get a widow’s peak like my father and uncle. Shaving was not enough. It was only a reduction of the problem, not a solution. And so I pulled out my hair, from the root.  This did make me feel sick. Not because of the physical sensation, but because of the memories of a boy at school who would get into rages and do the same in a ball of angry tears and snot. This passed after the first few clumps. Then it was just dry crunching sounds from the inside of my head and the jerk of my vision as my head jumped forward when the hair came free. I placed the skin and hair into a vacuum-sealed bag and put it in the fridge alongside my toes. The reaction at work was muted at best. Some comments. Some to my face, some murmured. I didn’t care. Everyone had begun to seem from another time to me. I was just readying myself. Preparing for something that they couldn’t see was coming. That they couldn’t be bothered to open their eyes for. No matter either way. They wouldn’t see much more.

With a mind to presentation, I left my hands as they were, but my feet looked odd with skin and no nails. Out they came with a pair of pliers. Easier and easier. The pain was left for someone else, some other part of me to complain about. The part that was being left behind. But I had the same thought as before. All these pieces of me. ‘Of me’ in the loosest sense now, of course. I couldn’t throw it away, freezing it was pointless, but any other option would be just leaving it to rot. I looked at the tiny, greying digits, the mess of skin and hair and toenails in the fridge and I remember sighing, pitying myself. The me that soon was. I took the toes first and dropped them into the void. They disappeared into the darkness that was in and on my arm. Where that piece of my arm used to be. Silently gone. Slight surprise at first until the thought fit perfectly into place. Streamlined into my new way of understanding. The void pulsed and grew, as if happy, before returning to its original size.

Apart from my face and hands, the rest of my skin was next. Peeled off and fed into the void in one long line. I wasn’t quite ready to completely remove myself from society. Twice weekly visits to sperm banks had near guaranteed my part in propagating my bloodline and species, so my genitals were next.

Consulting anatomical texts and diagrams I located my appendix. My hands sank into the flesh of my gut and I pulled it out. My body didn’t bleed out aside from some minor fluid loss, as if we had come to an understanding of sorts. Perhaps my body had no control at all. I was beyond the point of scrabbling for scraps of reason.

I didn’t stop with my appendix. Beyond supposedly useless organs and body parts (spleen and spare ribs), my stomach went next. Perhaps my greatest move as to remove my reliance on food was to remove my reliance on everything. Produce, therefore money, therefore work, therefore the outside world. No more guilt over eating too much or the wrong things! I had become the perfect human! A model of freedom and efficiency!

Naturally, my feet and legs were next. My ears. My nose. By god, my nose. To be rid of the foul stenches and chatter of the ordinary. My face, no longer needed. No one, if seen, was owed protection from what I have now become. It continued. So on, and so on, pieces given for the sake of efficiency. Pieces for the void. It grew and remained, just beyond my realm of understanding, somehow happy.

Little more than my head, some torso and right arm now remain. Above the void I have stripped my left arm to the bone. The shoulder joint is a marvellous piece of work. So fascinating to find out how muscles and tendons really work by removing them one-by-one. I leave this to you, whoever finds it. The one reason my tongue remains- to leave a record of my achievement. The pinnacle of humanity, I am alone. I am streamlined beyond a need for this world. Perhaps one day you will understand, but I think this is doubtful. I have realised there is nothing else to do, except this final act. My right hand is pushing inside the void. It feels warm. My thumb has taken purchase outside of the hole. I am beginning to pull in. The void. The void is growing to meet me.


Previous post 

Apologies again. I have this all planned out but am not able to write it as I'm laid up in hospital with pneumonia.


Tom ¦ Born Frowning

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Thursday, 28 February 2013


A long while ago I wrote three separate pieces, collected under the title A Collection of Rudimentary Notes On an Experiment Yet To Be CompletedFar from being the pretentious title it seemed to be, this was actually the first stage of an experiment. The second was to create a new piece using a cut-up method, as documented here. The third was to give the assembled nonsense to my dear friend and occasional collaborator Francesca Allen to do what she does best, i.e. make things look amazing. She certainly didn't disappoint. This is the end result, presented now as it was earmarked for a project that didn't come to fruition.


Tom/ Born Frowning

Design © Francesca Allen
Words © Born Frowning

Wednesday, 30 January 2013


I lost everything yesterday.  Fevered dreams, I don’t know where they ended and the day started. I slept until three, but I don’t remember waking.

When I looked out of the window, everything was covered in snow. The cars parked outside looked like lumps. The whole world was an unmade bed. The light was still there slightly. Fading fast. I walked up to Superdrug. As much as I could walk. I damn near burnt a hole through my leg in the night. I didn’t take a sleeping tablet, I wasn’t drunk or high. I just needed sleep that badly, I suppose. I don’t know how it happened, but I slept right through it. I bought some cream that’s meant to heal burns.  They didn’t have the right thing. The first place. I had to walk to Boots. The concrete felt like slow, thick liquid. I was on the deck of a ship. Everyone’s face was one I recognised but didn’t know why.  I should see a doctor.
That night a fox darted across my path. I had left the house again for something I felt I needed. It shot out of the darkness of the park by my house. I had to jump to a stop and I held my breath as it ran across the main road. Nearly dying. But the cars didn’t even come close. A dog, a pitbull was chasing foxes in the pitch black. I couldn’t see an owner I couldn’t see much at all. Just orange flashes. The dark white of the dog’s body in the moonlight. Blotted patches that bled into stripes. Maybe there was someone there, maybe it had just run off. Should I do something? Who do you call for something like this? I was too scared to look. What if it was dangerous? Or its owner was nearby?

I’ve never trusted pitbull owners. Not in a city. I let them keep running and walked on home.
When I was 16, my friends and I went to an alley by our school to smoke weed. I don’t know where I got it from, but I was the one with the connect. It was pretty nice. Buds, thick with pollen, but before the days when skunk had saturated the market and overcome everyone’s senses. Dry and fluffy shit. The doritos of cannabis.
Mersh. Commercial. High grade. Weed. None of that cracked out bullshit.

We’d gone to an alley to smoke it. Roy had said it was ok. He said he knew it. Barely on a cycle of the joint, a man came up to us. He was walking with his girlfriend, their infant in a pram and their pitbull on a chain. He didn’t think twice. She took the pram and faced the other way and he took the dogs chain and moved closer. I wouldn’t give it to him, even though he demanded. At first we all stood and bullshitted. “Some guy gave it to us” “What do you mean some guy?” “We just bought a joint” “Gimme the weed”. He kept demanding. The knees of my friends caved, but I decided for the first time in my life to say ‘no’. I was angry and tired of being bullied and I had paid for this weed with my pocket money. So I said ‘no’. Even when my friends pleaded with me.  He made the woman hold the dog’s chain as she continued to look the other way and he walked close to me. Firmly. Without raising his fists. And I caved along with the rest of them. I gave him the ten draw. Nothing, even then. The woman had taken the pram and faced the other way as he mugged me. Mugged a child. Apart from the hot anger and embarrassment and the feeling as if I’d once again finished last, the confirmation of every shit thing I felt about myself, I thought about the kid in the pram. What kind of hope did it have?

So I left it alone. The dog. I left it alone. I didn’t call anyone or tell anyone or think about it again that evening.

The next morning I found its body in the snow. Grey and soft and muscular. Stiff and limp. Frozen, the muscles had started to seize. I was walking through the park. I couldn’t sleep. I’ve been waking up at around half past five every morning. Not gradually, because I need a drink or a piss, slowly pulled out of deep sleep by an encroaching physical urgency. I wake with a gunshot. Every morning at half past five. I don’t sit up, like they do on tv. My eyes are just suddenly open, as certainly as they were closed before, and I am interpreting life anew. As similar as the day before, but every day a new reality. A new existence. It always took me longer than I felt it should to ground myself. My grandmother used to suffer from micro strokes. One aspect of senility, the horror of living as your brain begins to die. The short term memory is the first thing to go. Failing synapses forcing a brutal Taoist or Zen interpretation of reality. The moment is the only existence that can be understood. I often wonder if this is not what is happening to me.
Sometimes I can manage to return to sleep after half an hour or so. Sometimes I read or make half hearted attempt at masturbation and I realise sleep is lost to me. I had already decided I wouldn’t be going into work again. I finally accepted that I wasn’t going to work or to sleep or to do any of the things I probably should be doing, from reading to getting myself wed ha ha ha.

I pulled on clothes from the floor. I gingerly put trousers on, wincing as it went over the burn. My hip feels like it’s out. Or. Not right. My hip. Like it needs to click. My hip and my arm. My shoulder. Needs to break. They don’t hurt. But they need to break. To be ok.

The burn on my leg. It’s getting worse. The blister is about the size of half a golf ball. I thought a burn this bad would feel hot, but my body feels cold. Not because of the cold! No! From the inside. Spreading from the burn on my leg, up and inside and seeping. I imagined the blue liquid from a tampon advert taking over my body.

How are you! How are you!
I am fine! Ha ha ha! Yes! Thank you!

The half light. It is still the evening to everyone but me and milkmen and the animals and the traffic that never stops. There are no footprints, except paws. Dead air. The gulls that had been brought into the park along with the brand new lake. A living feature. Crows. Squirrels. Foxes. And somewhere, that dog.
The blues began to leave, taking with it the colour of the night. Whites, blacks and browns were all that remained. I walked, marking the ground for as ever as I could. It was ok. I wasn’t really here. I hadn’t opened my eyes yet. This part wasn’t real.

I stopped at the bridge. The white and the ever shifting light. The canvas onto which I painted imagined memories of the long dead Grand Surrey canal. The dull grey green of the weed choked waters, further discoloured by the perpetual traffic of industry. They formed in the haze I painted onto the world.  I climbed onto the bridge and watched the boats pass under. I nodded and waved at the old canal workers in an assumed camaraderie that the water encouraged.
I stepped off the bridge.
With no hesitation.

I floated above the surface of the water by barges and tugs. I cleared the water and watched the pikes and the minnows and the eels jittering and dancing under my feet. The pond skaters flew around my feet. Lines and lines of them, firing off over the curve of the earth, from a lump on the equator, obscuring what would be the rising sun, were it visible. I floated towards it.

The dog’s head was cocked slightly, first above the water, then above the ground as if waiting to hear a command from beneath the earth. Its tongue had lolled out of its mouth. The sharp pink against monochrome. Whites and mottled greys. Slowly becoming grey itself as the physical memory of life became more and more distant, as the matter, the corporal pieces that had made up this animal entered a new stage of its existence.
It just looked like meat with the skin on.

“Shame, that. Must have slipped his leash”
I couldn’t place him, the boat-less man. Standing on the waterless ground. His high-visibility vest shone out against what was now the endless white. Saying nothing, he picked the dog from the ground with both hands and put it in the back of his small, green, off-road vehicle. He took a moment to brush the snow from the body before driving away.